During protests against the state budget for the coming year, demonstrators in guatemala city set fire to parts of the congress building.
A group entered the building in the historic center of the capital on saturday and set fire to it. On television, flames could be seen coming out of a window of the people’s representative office. Later, the fire department brought the fire under control, according to the police. On the outskirts of the otherwise mostly peaceful demonstration, demonstrators hurled stones at police, officers fired tear gas into the crowd.
"There is a right to demonstrate," president alejandro giammattei wrote on twitter. "But we can not allow public or private property to be destroyed. Whoever participates in these criminal acts will face the full force of the law."
At least 14 people were injured in the clashes and treated at a hospital. The red cross attended to about 60 people on the scene, for example because of irritation of the eyes by tear gas. According to the interior ministry, 37 people were arrested in the course of the riots. Protests and riots also occurred in other cities such as quetzaltenango, totonicapan, coban and san marcos.
Human rights ombudsman jordan rodas accused security forces of curtailing freedom of assembly. Police beat demonstrators and used firearms, letter to constitutional court said. Rodas called for the removal of interior minister gendri reyes and police chief jose antonio tzuban.
The protesters called on head of state giammattei to veto the controversial budget. The budget for the coming year was last approved by deputies in a fast-track procedure without public debate. The design met with opposition from numerous social groups ranging from entrepreneurs to social movements and the education sector to the catholic church. Criticized the high level of new debt, cuts in the social and education sectors, and lack of transparency.
Critics accused congress of deliberately passing the budget so quickly while people in the central american country were struggling with the aftermath of devastating tropical storms eta and iota.